International and local media joined forces for the World Street Food Congress 2016 (WSFC) press day: a whopping fifteen hour eat-inerary of learning about and savoring Filipino food across different cities in Metro Manila and Pampanga. This year, WSFC will be held in the Philippines for the first time, with the theme 'The Comforting Flavors of Home.' The 15 Hour Food Frenzy was held to give foodies and food journalists from around the world a (very big!) slice of Filipino food culture; for local writers like myself, it was a delicious rediscovery of comfort food I have loved through the years.
"Good food shouldn’t be expensive, it should be comforting, real and affordable," says KF Seetoh, founder of Singapore's Makansutra and creator of WSFC. Seetoh himself joined the media for the food frenzy, the street food evangelist trying and tasting everything in sight with gusto — especially the kare-kare and taba ng talangka (crab fat) which he smothered on pandesal (bread) during the Pampanga leg of the trip. He also announced during the tour that Makansutra will open its first international food market in Manila within the year.
To say we were given a taste of what WSFC will roll out for foodies and industry pros this April 20 to 24 is an understatement — there were platters and plates, servings upon servings, until we clocked out on the fifteenth hour, stuffed silly and taking home a certificate of recognition making all of us offically 'Commando Foodies.' Want to have your own gut-busting gustatory road trip around Manila and Pampanga? Check out our epic food trip and see for yourself if your adventurous belly can conquer it all.
Recovery Food (BGC, Taguig)
Open 24 hours, Recovery Food gives comfort to the weary (or hungover) with its lineup of silog rice bowls, elevating the homey goodness of eggs on rice with ulam for a hearty and filling Filipino breakfast. My favorite here is their spicy sweet tuyo.
What we ate: Tapa De Morning (homemade tapa), S.S.T. (Spicy Sweet Tuyo), Amadobo (old fashioned adobo), Hey Jude’s Paksig (bangus belly paksiw)
Everybody's Cafe (San Fernando, Pampanga)
Our first stop in Pampanga, often called The Culinary Capital of the Philippines, is an old haunt that features classic and traditional Kapampangan cooking done turo-turo style in a food hall. From tamales (steamed savory rice cakes) wrapped in banana leaves to pindang damulag (tapa made from carabao meat), to the province's version of dinuguan (tidtad) and exotic fare of crispy crickets (camaru), there was much to see and taste and savor at this cafe, that every bite was like an introductory course to authentic Kapampangan cuisine.
What we ate: Tamales, suman bulagta (suman sa lihiya), sarsyadong itlog (omelette with tomatoes and onions), longganisa, pindang damulag, tidtad (pork diniguan), morcon (best-seller), adobong camaru (adobo style crispy mole cricket), tsokolate batirol (old fashioned hot chocolate drink with cocoa and peanut paste ground using an old fashioned stone grinder), fried rice, pandesal, taba ng talangka (crab fat)
Pampanga's dare-to-try dish: Adobong camaru/kamaro. Stir-fried adobo mole crickets (wings and legs removed) sounds more exotic than it tastes, really. It has a light crisp, and a pleasant sour and saltiness to it. After a few hesitant nibbles, you won't mind getting more, or even a spoonful of it to pair with rice…
3. Morning Snack
Aling Lucing's Sisig (Angeles, Pampanga)
We all have our own preference as to how we savor sisig, the quintessential bar chow, beer match, and reason for extra servings of rice. It can arrive topped with an assortment of other ingredients, and served with different sauces and spices, but until now, Pampanga's Aling Lucing Sisig sticks to their original recipe — chopped up pig’s face and chicken liver, served sizzling and seasoned with calamansi.
What we ate: Sizzling Sisig
Cafe Fleur (Angeles, Pampanga)
After our sisig stop, Chef Sau del Rosario welcomed us into his new restaurant, Cafe Fleur, where he personally prepared our Filipino feast — mostly off-menu dishes with his own spin on Kapampangan cuisine that delighted us Filipino press alongside the international foodies sampling the dishes for the very first time. He recreates classic dishes of Pampanga with great finesse, like his luscious take on tamales served in a glass cup — more coconut cream is used to achieve a smooth, velvety texture. Unforgettable too was his mouthwatering, extra creamy take on the humble rellenong bangus, and the scene-stealer bagnet kare-kare with rich truffle macadamia sauce.
What we ate: Tamales Pampangueña, Paku Salad (with Watermelon, Kesong Puti, and Salted Egg), Okoy, Buro with Crispy Hito wraps, Ulang (river prawn) Sinigang sa Bayabas, Lamb Shank Caldereta, Rellenong Bangus, Bagnet Kare-Kare with Truffle Macadamia Sauce, Tsokolate Batirol served with arrowroot cookies, Halo-Halo, Dirty Ice Cream, Pandan Sans Rival
5. Afternoon Snacks
We take a quick intermission from savoring Filipino flavors and have ourselves a taste of Indonesia at the WSFC16 press conference, where Indonesia's culinary ambassador Chef William Wongso gave a quick cooking demo of well-loved comfort food from his home country.
Wongso introduced us to Saté Lilit Bali, a traditional Balinese satay. He uses a spiced fish cake, but sate lilit can be cooked using other kinds of protein like chicken, beef, or pork. The second dish is an aromatic salmon soup called Pindang Serani Salmon, which reminds me of our own sinigang broth, a flavorful mix of savory and sour.
What we ate: Saté Lilit Bali, Pindang Serani Salmon
6. The Big Binondo Food Wok!
Chinatown (Binondo), Metro Manila
The best way to explore the oldest Chinatown in the world is by way of eating, and through Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks, we had a nibble here and there from some of the most iconic food establishments in Binondo: Quik Snack, Sincerity Cafe & Restaurant, Dong Bei Dumplings, and a quick shopping trip for delicacies at Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli.
What we ate: Chinoy comfort food at Quik Snack (Amah Pilar's Sate Noodles, Fresh Lumpia, Kuchay Ah/Chinese Empanada, Indonesian Tauhu); Sincerity's Sincerity Fried Chicken, Fried Oyster Cake, Fried Kikiam; Northen style Chinese pork dumplings and Fried Stuffed Pancake at Dong Bei Dumplings; Assorted Hopia at Eng Bee Tin
Sarsa Kitchen + Bar (BGC, Taguig)
It was a gut-busting boodle fight at Sarsa as we were treated to Filipino-Negrense dishes exploding with flavor that made us want to eat even more spoonfuls of rice. Two long tables were lined with banana leaves, and at the center, a mountain of garlic fried rice with an assortment of "toppings" — skewers of chicken inasal, and other tasty chicken parts on a stick. This restaurant serves the most unbelievably mouthwatering isaw (chicken intestine) that I've had! The best-sellers were also served, like the sizzling version of the Ilonggo kansi soup.
What we ate: Kinilaw, Chicken Skin Inasal, Chicken Inasal, Panit (Chicken skin), Isaw, Isol, Tortang talong with Crispy Sardines and Kesong Puti, Sizzling Kansi, Batchoy, Piaya Ice cream sandwich
8. Finale Feast
Mercato Centrale Night Market (BGC, Taguig; open Friday and Saturday evenings)
A short walk from our Sarsa dinner is Mercato Centrale, where we gathered around for our final tasting to finish our food tour strong. A roast suckling pig was the centerpiece of our long table, and what turned me from stuffed to hungry was when they mentioned the lechon is by Dedet dela Fuente of Pepita's Kitchen, the lechon diva who caused long lines in Singapore last year with her lechon stuffed with truffle rice at World Street Food Congress 2015. And for the foodies new to Manila street food, they were treated (or challenged?) to some balut. As for me, I was slowly slipping into the mother of all food comas that only a fifteen hour food trip could bring on — this Commando Foodie is tired, stuffed, and proud.
What we ate: Lechon de Leche Stuffed with Truffle Rice by Pepita's Kitchen, and Balut for the foreign guests
World Street Food Congress 2016 Highlights:
- The World Street Food Dialogue (April 20-21, 2016 at Federacion Drive and 9th Avenue, BGC)
Presenters and speakers will address inherent opportunities on heritage street food culture through a series of conversations and activities. It will include cooking demonstrations of iconic dishes and The Pitch Box, a 3-minute segment given to the new breed of comfort food warriors and commentators to distill their aspirations and goals on stage. [$250/ticket, inclusive of tea breaks and lunch on both days, a P1,200 Jamboree food voucher, and a special WSFC16 gift pack ]
- World Street Food Jamboree (April 20-24, 2016 at 7th Avenue and 25th Street, BGC)
There will be up to 24 international hawkers setting up their stalls and offering unique and iconic street food fare. Featured street food stalls include Philippines, Malayia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Singapore, and USA. Every street food dish presented at the Jamboree is unique to a culture or land, making this an event where foodies from all walks of life can enjoy the vibrant flavors and atmosphere, discovering new food around the world without leaving the city. [Food price from P200 onwards; Jamboree is open 20-22 April from 4pm to 11pm, 23 April from 12pm to 11pm, and 24 April from 12pm to 9pm]
World Street Food Congress 2016 is presented by the Department of Tourism, Tourism Promotion Board Philippines, Ayala Malls, and is brought to you by Makansutra (S) Pte Ltd, founded by entrepreneur-photojournalist KF Seetoh with a mission to celebrate heritage street food culture. For more information, visit www.wsfcongress.com